Ethiopian Identity / Hearts Abroad / Hearts Abroad (Diasporas on love) / Immigrant Life / Names / Novel / Writing

Prompt # 62 – alias

More Notes from the Canadian honey jar

When shit hits the fan, what name you want to be called by? Still ‘honeybaby’ or your actual name or that other actual name?

September 20, 2017

He always complains that she never calls him by his name, claims that the first time she ever called him by his name was on their last conversation before breaking up. Thing is, she was never sure which name he meant/she was supposed to call him by: the minority ethnic one he got at birth and held until he “fled”, or the other majority ethnic one he made up for asylum, or the “black” sounding one he uses for dealing with his white customers.

First of all, she was guilty as charged. She had never called him by his made-up name (forget the original name. But she also can’t recall if he ever called her by her  name. Though she suspects he did, without problem.

When we really want someone’s attention, we begin our sentence using their name first. Name, pause, statement. So in that moment, their last conversation, she really wanted him to listen to what she had to say (it didn’t help that he was wasted), so she used his name, emphatically. And his relief was instant. She thinks he exhaled and said ‘finally, finally you said my name’. And of course she was like ‘what are you talking about I always say your name.’ and he said ‘no you never did’. That  was the meat of the issue, but she denied the charge, so the topic like the relationship didn’t go anywhere.”

There’s something genuine, truly felt, about whatever I have to say to the person if I begin by using, their name. I don’t think I am unique in that regard.

…Even someone like him sensed it so that’s why he didn’t believe her denial for a second, despite his foggy state of mind. I think that such a conversation could be an interesting one to develop somewhere in the book. There’s also comic potential, right? The idea of all the names a person goes by, out of necessity or practicality.

It’s not unique, of course, these dual names (or triple, or quadruple!), and to be honest not that interesting to me. When people switch names is more interesting, exactly at what point that decision happened.

More & more I think that it’s not the fact of his multiple names that is of true interest here. That’s common, whether the person is an immigrant or not. Maybe rarer is the person who goes by one name for all occasions, especially an immigrant. Now there’s a character trait! The true interest here is that pivotal moment when she chooses to say his name, emphatically so, and when he called her on it, and when she denied it. Forget everything else. Slow this down, beat by beat. What made her decide to say his actual name? What result did she expect? ( that it would win her the argument, was it her ace card? Did she expect that he would make such a point of it?) How did she feel when he called her on it? How did she react when he called her on it?

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